'Master X Master' Is NCSoft's Frankenstein MOBA

master x mnaster
Look at all that chibi NCSoft

MOBAs are all the rage right now. Every single company is clamoring to release the next League of Legends and get some of that sweet millennial money. There are so many right now, the market is entirely over saturated. We’ve got Vainglory, Heroes of the Storm, and now we have NCSoft’s newest venture into the format, Master X Master.

At Pax East iDigitalTimes got a hands on look at Master X Master which is a cross between a dungeon crawler and a classic MOBA. I consider myself a MOBA aficionado. I have tried every single one that’s hit the market, even the truly terrible ones that never made it past beta, like DC’s Infinite Crisis. I play a MOBA like a wine taster sips his fancy grape juice. I try to get a sense of the identity of the game, what makes it unique and why would people play it.

Master X Master does have some cool things going for it. It’s main unique mechanic is that at the start of the game you pick two “masters” you can switch out in the game. There’s a brief cooldown time in between switches, but you can change at any time. In the middle of a team fight and your squishy assassin has gotten herself in a bit of trouble? Switch out to your tank and get ready to crack some skulls.

There’s also something MOBA fans have been clamoring for: a single player mode. League might never have a sandbox mode, so Master X Master is trying to fill that void. We played on a street level, fighting over grown plants and mutant brutes. It was the tutorial level so I’ll let the unoriginal character design slide.

NCSoft has over 30 masters available in the game right now; some are really unique while others are generic clichés. I played as Bumaru, a blob dude who grows in size as the game progresses and can use his little blobs to attack enemies. I also played as Kat The Cat, a cat (shocker) who could switch from melee to ranged auto attacks and stun enemies.

One character had the exact same spell set as Janna from League of Legends. She could shoot a tornado in a line, give a shield her allies and channel and AOE ultimate. The NCSoft spokesman said they're not the same though because their character is an ice mage. Ok.

You move your character with the WASD keys and have to aim your auto attacks. It’s a nice system, but Smite does it way better. You can choose two out of four spells the master has to take with you into battle. You use those plus a third one tied to your right-mouse button to fight. It’s slightly different than you average MOBA, but not enough to truly make it stand out.

In between games, you stay in a lobby that feels a lot like Club Penguin. It feels like a step back from the sleek menus prevalent in nearly every other MOBA client. There are multiple single and multiplayer maps; we tried the Blackram Supply Chain PVE map and a 5v5 map. The Titan Ruins map we played used Titans, had underground boss battles and three lanes. It was Heroes of the Storm but just different enough so that it could be considered a different game.

Overall, this game looks like it might have promise. All of the pieces work really well together and, above all, it's fun. Master X Master just doesn’t have enough unique elements yet to really set it apart from the MOBA herd.  NCSoft is either going to have to throw a massive curve ball or this game might just end up in the video game graveyard. 

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